This point is so obvious that it’s difficult to believe that Nancy Pelosi thought her proposal for an “independent” commission would survive without it being made. Pelosi wants Democrats appointed to seven of the eleven seats on the committee that will investigate the Capitol riot and its origins in the disputes over the November election.
Even Pelosi’s fellow Democrats think that’s a bad idea. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) tells Chris Berman that not only should the commission be split evenly between Republicans and Democrats for maximum credibility, it shouldn’t include any officeholders or candidates either — only people with no partisan axes to grind:
JUST IN: Senator @ChrisCoons says the independent commission to investigate the January 6 riot should be split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, similar to the 9/11 Commission.
Pelosi's draft proposal made for a 7-Dem 4-GOP breakdown. pic.twitter.com/hwc5bDDCFt
— Alli Hedges Maser (@AllisonLHedges) February 25, 2021
Coons hearkens back to the 9/11 Commission for the model to follow. While that commission had its issues — its recommendations for expanded bureaucracy in the intel community rather than consolidation was a serious mistake — those issues had little to do with partisanship. It’s still the right model for this kind of blue-ribbon panel approach, as the Wall Street Journal’s editors point out today. Instead, Pelosi is looking at the “bad examples” of tilted committees that followed afterward:
Mrs. Pelosi should want an inquiry that delivers a unanimous outcome, not one that breaks down on party lines. Heed the veterans of the 9/11 commission, which she invokes. Its Democratic vice chairman, former Rep. Lee Hamilton, told Politico that Mrs. Pelosi’s proposal “does not sound to me like a good start; it sounds like a partisan beginning.” Its GOP chairman, former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, said that without equal representation, “the report won’t have as much confidence from the American people.” …
A bad example, which Mrs. Pelosi seems intent on repeating, is the commission created to investigate the causes of the 2007-08 financial crash. For its leader, Mrs. Pelosi and Harry Reid tapped Phil Angelides, a former chairman of the Democratic Party of California. Their main goal seemed to be getting ammunition to help congressional Democrats pass the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul.
The result was a partisan failure. The six members appointed by Democrats issued their official findings. The four members chosen by Republicans did not sign on and issued two dissents. “The majority’s almost 550-page report is more an account of bad events than a focused explanation of what happened and why,” one of the dissents said, focusing on the pre-cooked and simplistic “hypothesis that too little regulation caused the crisis.”
Rather than credibility, the WSJ editors predict, Pelosi wants to exploit the commission for 2022 election fodder:
Today it looks like Mrs. Pelosi’s goal is to keep the Jan. 6 riot alive in the public mind until the 2022 election. If four GOP commissioners issue a dissent, maybe she doesn’t mind, as long as the official findings are written like a political document by seven Democrats. But then why should the GOP participate in a charade? If Mrs. Pelosi won’t structure the inquiry in a credible fashion, Republicans should sit it out.
That’s easier said than done, but Republicans are pushing back hard against Pelosi’s proposal. Mitch McConnell has already declared the proposal DOA, and suggests that Congress needs to make a clean choice. Either focus narrowly on security issues around January 6 or on political violence more broadly:
Republicans have suggested an evenly divided 10-member panel and have also objected to some of the rationale for forming the commission. A second aide said that Pelosi’s proposal would give broad latitude to the commission to investigate what led to the effort to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power and that it quotes FBI and intelligence assessments that show some of the violence was motivated by racism and false narratives about the election.
McConnell said on the Senate floor that the language is “artificial cherry picking” and that the commission should either look narrowly at the specific security failures in the Capitol or “potentially do something broader to analyze the full scope of political violence here in our country.”
He said an inquiry “with a hardwired partisan slant would never be legitimate in the eyes of the American people.”
McCarthy pointed to the Sept. 11 commission as the model. “It’s only Speaker Pelosi who’s trying to make this thing partisan,” he said.
It sounds as though Coons is on the same page as Republicans, at least in terms of structure. Scope might be another battle, but again, any effort that intends to establish broad credibility had better address either a broad scope of concerns or restrict itself to a very disciplined and narrow scope. Anything in between would be too easily exploited for partisan ends — and therefore a tremendous drain on credibility.